Find the Bounce in Your Bow for Spiccato: Trampoline Bow Exercise

February 8, 2018, 11:45 AM · A violin bow wants to jump; it's part of its nature. In fact, violinists spend so much time taming the bow's springiness to produce smooth detaché bow strokes, that when we finally get around to bouncing the bow on purpose, sometimes the task seems very complicated and stressful.

I'm here to tell you that it can be as fun as jumping on a trampoline!


Bow strokes that involve bouncing -- spiccato, sautille, ricochet -- require getting in touch with the natural bounciness of the bow. Before getting into the specifics of these bow strokes with students, I like to spend some time doing an exercise I call "Trampoline Bows." The idea of this exercise is to help get in touch with the bouncy nature of the bow, and also to start learning to control the speed at which it bounces.

Below is a video about how to do the exercise, and afterwards a written description. I hope you find it helpful!

1. Set yourself up by placing the bow in the upper half, just a little past the middle (and for this exercise, it's more the the upper-half than the official "bounce point.") Make sure that the hair is flat. Then without raising your bow hand, use your bow pinkie to lift the bow, pivoting from the wrist. Next, simply drop the bow on the string, allowing it to bounce until it stops. The only thing that you will try to control is to keep it on the "highway" (between the bridge and fingerboard) so that it doesn't go skittering down the fingerboard (at least very much!)

2. Setting up in the same way, bounce several times in a row, always with a relaxed hand, pivoting from the wrist. Experiment with bouncing higher or bouncing lower, and bouncing on different strings (or combinations of strings, like EA together, etc.)

3. Set your metronome on 60 and do one bounce per beat, trying to stay exactly with the beat of the metronome. I usually start on the A-string, then try this exercise on other strings. Use the height of the bounce to control the speed: bouncing higher will slow down the bounces, bouncing lower will increase the speed of the bounces. Try two bounces per beat, then three, then four. I recommend stopping short of six bounces or more, for this particular exercise. Six bounces generally starts requiring a different kind of bow stroke. Only go up to the point where you can do the exercise with no arm or shoulder tension.

4. To try a spiccato-like stroke, simply swing your right arm slightly with each bounce, back and forth. This will require getting just a little closer to the frog and that "bounce point" of your particular bow. Experiment with pairing this horizontal, swinging motion with the trampoline motion. If it starts sounding uneven, chances are you need more force in the up-bow swing, to compensate for gravity.

Please feel free to add to the comments any exercises or variations on this one that you like to do for finding the bounce in your bow!

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